The Australian Ballet’s new triple bill ‘Volt’ is pushing boundaries and physical limits
11.03.2020

The Australian Ballet’s new triple bill ‘Volt’ is pushing boundaries and physical limits

Photo by Lynette Wills
Words by Fergus Neal

The Australian Ballet’s 2020 contemporary triple bill Volt showcases the work of two giants in the contemporary ballet world.

Wayne McGregor brings two highly-acclaimed, lightning-fast works from his canon, Chroma and Dyad 1929, while the Australian Ballet’s resident choreographer and Helpmann award-winner Alice Topp premieres her new work, Logos

The pair developed a dynamic friendship when working together in London. This is what enabled Volt to come into fruition – it’s since become a fierce performance which pushes dancers to their physical limits.

“Wayne is such an incredible genius. He works so quickly. He’s so fast. He has informed me both as a dancer and a choreographer,” says Topp. 

“The company sent me over to London and I spent a month in the studio with Wayne. I had the great opportunity of watching Wayne in his element during the creative process and observe the creation of a brand-new work which has formed part of Logos

“We had this incredible exchange in London. Up until that point I never had a direct relationship with Wayne as a choreographer, I had performed in several of his works but always without him being physically present. So it was kind of this beautiful circle that I had danced in his works and was now creating with his company something that would form part of Logos.” 

Logos will interrogate the notions of a dormant beast, within how humans live and work with their monsters and what the landscape looks like after the storm. Topp is debuting the piece alongside two of McGregor’s contemporary hits. A daunting prospect for some young choreographers, Topp believes that working next to one of the best choreographers in the world is what has facilitated her growth as a performer and choreographer. 

“Dancing Wayne’s works were really the first time I’d been encouraged to use my own artistic voice. Up until that point I’d been in a number of Swan Lakes, Nutcrackers and Sleeping Beauty

“For the women in particular you’re one of 24 swans, you’re one of a heap of snowflakes, shades in the kingdom of shades. You know you’re doing your job right if you don’t stand out. It’s all about uniform and unison, you’re not really taught to be a leader. You’re one band of bodies.

“Wayne came out and encouraged and celebrated individual voices. He wanted to amplify those voices. At that point I didn’t know what my voice sounded like; I hadn’t really thought about how I wanted to interpret ballet. Wayne really got us thinking and he got me to believe in my own artistic voice and that has definitely informed my choreographic voice. 

“It gave me a lot of flexibility to be open to interpreting things my own way and not be wrong necessarily, which definitely ignited my passion for choreography. His works are so athletic and physically demanding. Your body makes extreme shapes you didn’t think were possible. You start thinking of yourself as a rubber band,” Topp laughs. 

When asked what her parents make of her success in dance, Topp’s voice fills with joy.   

“My parents were very open to letting me pursue this career. My dad was a school teacher for thirty years and he let me leave high school when I was 13, so that’s pretty flexible mentally to let me run away from home and pursue this vocation. 

“My parents didn’t have a huge understanding of ballet but the fact that they had the support and openness in letting us pursue what we wanted, that was amazing and something I will be eternally grateful for.”

Volt will be performed at Arts Centre Melbourne from Friday March 13 until Tuesday March 24. For more information and tickets visit The Australian Ballet website.